Walk softly and carry a big ballot
By Jean Godden
Primary votes were due by Tuesday this week. If you voted, there's good news. You helped pick people competing to run our state and nation. But, if you skipped voting, shame on you.
It's hard to think of any excuse for a citizen -- native or naturalized -- not to vote in King County of all places. In our county, we have some of the easiest, most voter-friendly, tamper-proof practices in the nation. It's easy to register: you can do it on line; you can register by mail, or you can sign up in person at election offices in Seattle and Renton.
Once registered, you'll get a voter's pamphlet with information about choices. And you'll get a ballot in the mail. Once you've voted, you can drop your ballot -- no stamp required -- in the nearest mailbox or go to one of the many convenient drop boxes. The county just added a dozen more.
And finally, once you've voted you can use the handy tear-off stub to track your ballot online at wwww.kingcounty.gov/elections. You can be sure your vote will count.
It may sound a little old hat to say so, but voting is the very heart of democracy. We have fought wars -- beginning with the nation's first -- and we have waged campaigns to expand suffrage and ensure voting rights.
But, sadly, our belief in the need for citizens to vote has been shaken in recent years. Poor turnouts, particularly in midterm and off-year elections, are undermining our democratic ideals.
Take the last presidential election. You probably know people who didn't bother to vote. Or if they did vote, they said, "Hillary's going to win; I'm casting a write in vote for Bernie Sanders." Or for Jill Stein. Or Gary Johnson. They thought voting didn't matter and, in aggregate, it cost the nation.
Liberals, in particular, now deplore the results of that election. They are confounded over what to do about a president who trashes political ethics, international alliances, the separation of powers, marital fidelity and the truth.
There is second guessing. You hear those same liberal voices asking one another: Would things have been different if only Democrats had nominated Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or someone other than Hillary Clinton?
But, beyond the forest of what-ifs, there is one simple truth: Too many liberal voters were missing in action in 2016. The numbers spell it out: If liberals had voted at the same rate as conservatives, Donald Trump would not be president. Had liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, this nation would be doing more, not less, to address climate change, health care and immigration reform.
Voter turnouts have worked against liberals. In 2016, Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 overwhelmingly supported Clinton over Trump. But only 43 percent of them voted. Americans in their 30s were more likely to support Clinton, but they were less likely to vote than Americans in their 50s. Americans over 65 did vote -- more than 71 percent of them -- but they disproportionately voted for Trump.
Here we're talking about an election for president. But the voting gap grows even larger in midterm elections like the one we're having this year. In 2014, the last midterm election, a mere 17 percent -- one in six -- of Americans between 18 and 24 voted. That 17 percent contrasts to 59 percent voting for seniors.
If you're depressed by these statistics, you should be. But don't think that there's nothing you can do about it.
There are things you can do during a crucial election year. You can support worthy candidates, even those outside your district. You can talk about their campaigns (think digital communication) and you can contribute: even a little bit helps. You can join phone banks and use your smartphone to urge others to vote.
If you want to repair damage done to our democracy, there are just three simple words: Register and vote. And then urge others -- friends, neighbors, family and acquaintances -- they, too, must cast a ballot. All of us must vote in November. It's the only way to preserve a democratic nation.
You urge people to vote, then you show disrespect for people who did vote, but made a choice you did not like. I voted for Gary Johnson, along with almost 5 million other Americans. We rejected Hilary Clinton because she voted for Bush's war in Iraq, and we rejected Donald Trump who we know is authoritarian. We took the time to look beyond the choices offered by the Democrats and Republicans. Why do you think it is important to vote, but not important to respect people who disagree with you?